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Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court has sentenced a father to 25 years direct imprisonment for the murder of his four-month-old son.

Judge Robert Henney described Christo Hartman as a "coward" when he handed down sentence on Thursday. 

The 25-year-old Robertson farmworker confessed to beating the infant on his head.

In his plea explanation, he told the court that he had asked the baby's mother, Melissa Filander, if he could spend some time with his son as they were separated. 

He took the baby, Christiano Filander, to his home and fed him, but the infant "kept on being fussy" and also soiled himself.

“I was frustrated by the baby’s crying and fussiness. My feelings of frustration were exacerbated by the way the father of Melissa Filander treated me. When I visited their home earlier to fetch the baby, Melissa’s father did not acknowledge me, and he acted as if he disapproved of the baby going along with me. While I was at the house, Melissa’s father left the house without saying anything to me.

“Because of my frustration, I assaulted the baby by assaulting him in the face and on the neck numerous times and hitting him hard once against the head with my fist. When I hit him against the head with the fist, I held his head at the back with my other hand. I also hit and slapped him more than once on the chest/ abdomen and lower back and scratched him with my nails on his lower back in the process. The baby went silent and lost consciousness. I could not feel a pulse on the baby,” he said.

He said he tried to revive the baby in the shower and panicked, bruising him further on his arms and legs.

Hartman wrapped the baby in a sheet and placed him in a crate. He told his uncle and aunt what had happened and was later arrested by police. 

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila welcomed the sentence. 

"The Western Cape has its fair share of child murders and the NPA welcomes a sentence like this, as it is an indication that the courts take our efforts of ensuring that those who are involved in these heinous crimes are sentenced heavily."

African News Agency/ANA